NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Chocoholics looking to curb their chocolate urges may be able to do so simply by taking a brisk 15-minute walk, results of a study from the United Kingdom hints.

“Taking active breaks throughout the day may be valuable in helping to limit the consumption of pleasurable, but unnecessary, calories,” Professor Adrian Taylor of the School of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter told Reuters Health.

Chocolate is likely the most commonly and intensely craved food, and chocolate urges are often triggered by boredom, stress, or the desire to uplift mood or increase alertness, note Taylor and colleagues in the journal Appetite.

Yet study findings have shown that short bouts of exercise, such as brisk walking, can also improve alertness and mood, and reduce sugar snack urges. These findings led Taylor’s group to investigate how short bouts of brisk walking, versus being sedentary, might alter chocolate urges.

The investigators enlisted 20 women and 5 men (25 years old on average) who reported eating at least 2 chocolate bars daily and had similarly intense chocolate cravings to abstain from eating chocolate for 3 days.

The participants also abstained from caffeine products and exercise for 2 hours prior to undergoing each of two testing scenarios — either 15 minutes of brisk walking or sitting quietly for 15 minutes. After each scenario, participants completed a mentally arousing task and handled, but did not eat, a chocolate bar.

Post scenario testing showed being sedentary “did nothing to reduce chocolate cravings, whereas doing a 15-minute walk reduced urges to eat chocolate,” Taylor said.

Exercise also appeared to lessen participants’ increase in urges/cravings to eat chocolate when it became available.

Further research, Taylor noted, should assess whether increases in daily activity, particularly in the workplace, regulates subconscious cravings, especially among women who have higher chocolate cravings than men.

SOURCE: Appetite, November 2008.